What it’s like to take on an internship for the Singapore International Film Festival: Sarah How

The Singapore International Film Festival concluded and wrapped up a couple of weeks ago, and we managed to get in touch with an intern who slogged it out alongside industry veterans. Sarah shared plenty of advice and insights as someone just entering the film industry, and if you’ve always been interested in it yourself, this is the interview for you.

Let’s dig in!

What’s your educational background?

I have a Diploma in Social Work from NYP and a Bachelor in Sociology and Film from Monash University.

Why did you choose to intern for SGIFF? (Even with an unrelated degree…)

It is somewhat related. Actually, looking around society, it’s probably the most suitable for my degree. I chose the Singapore International Film Festival because it’s film-related, and I’ve always wanted to experience the Singaporean film industry.

How long did you work for SGIFF?

Since May to December 2018, so about 7 months.

Describe a typical day at work for you!

I come into work anxious. Check my emails, clear them. Organise a heap full of lists. Check email again. Request for films. Write minutes. Organise more lists. It really differs from day to day and season by season.

What are your main responsibilities as an intern / festival assistant?

Basically, as an intern, I personally feel that my responsibility is to make things easier for the full-timers/bosses helping in whatever way I can. They ask, and I do.

What were the biggest challenges to your job that you really had to grapple and deal with?

Um. I think, the biggest challenge was just the sudden exposure to the industry with all these names of people you’ve heard of before being thrown around the office like it’s second nature. It was harrowing and intimidating. Not to mention my colleagues are all badasses, so I think the biggest challenge was grappling with the fact that I was in their midst and trying to prove myself ‘worthy’ in that sense. Sound stupid, but it’s just one of those, “OMG it’s a dream job I don’t want to screw it up” moments.

Also, trying to verbalise my thoughts. Being so used to writing well thought out criticisms in university, it was kinda hard when people asked me for opinions on films.

What would you say you learnt from your internship with the Singapore International Film Festival?

Go with the flow – we’ll cross the bridge when we get to it mentality.

Plans change in a blink of an eye here and it’s really about laughing/crying (depending on your coping mechanism) about it and then moving on.

Mistakes are ok.

I think related to the idea of coping and moving on, this office of people, or at least the programming team are so forgiving and understanding about mistakes – be it towards me or towards themselves. I used to (and sometimes still do) beat myself up about all the small mistakes I’ve made over the year. But my team usually laughs about them. As long as we own up to it, say sorry, rectify the mistake – all is good.

What’s the work culture like in a festival setting, and in the arts scene? Any barriers you had to get over?

They’re a bunch of crazies. Mad. Absolutely mental. Hahaha. They’re great. Truly great. Accepting, understanding and full of love. It’s just a great community to start this journey.

Barriers I had to get over relate back to my personal challenges when it came to working for A FESTIVAL.

Would you recommend an internship for the Singapore International Film Festival to anyone else?

Yes. Definitely. I think it’s a great place to learn with understanding and fun people. It can get stressful due to the ever changing plans or just timeline crunches. But stress comes everywhere you go in different packages. This package I chose ain’t too bad.

What’s next for you, now that SGIFF has ended?

They’ve actually offered me a full-time one year contract that I am very willing to take up. But nothing has been signed so nothing is set in stone 🙂

Any words of advice for anyone out there who wants to venture into an internship after university?

Wow, advice. Um. There will be setbacks. People will question why you’re doing an internship WITH a degree that could get you a full time job that pays better. It also takes courage and humility to do an internship after uni, because a lot of your batch mates would probably be off doing bigger and better paid things.

Personally, it  took me a while to get over that. But I personally believe that you’ll learn the most from actually being in that environment, be it just to observe or to actually do the job.

Wise words. Don’t pass up that internship post-graduation just yet – you might have stumbled upon the best months of your life!

If you’re looking for a job that’ll excite and challenge you like Sarah did, hop onto our platform and explore thousands of new job opportunities today.

Sophia Lee

I used to freelance exclusively for Glints - now I'm a content marketing intern working furiously in the backdrop. Talk to me about writing any time! (Or we could have a serious discussion about video games and e-sports... that's cool too.) Find me on Instagram (@pxtrx)!